The Devils NEED to win this game tonight because the Tampa Bay Lightning gave us a gift last night by somehow keeping the Pens off the board, giving us some life to get the Atlantic crown. A win tonight is easier said than done, however, as the mighty Blackhawks are in town. The Devils played the Hawks earlier in the year, on New Years Eve in fact, and they got smacked around in Chicago, losing 5-1 – with Huet in net even.
That was a bad way to bring in the new year and was actually the beginning of when New Jersey started floundering in its play. They have actually lost 21 of their 37 games since that loss in Chicago. It is no secret that the Devils have lacked consistency to their game for a while now and have very little time left to get it together before the playoffs. I still feel this team is one or two things away from getting everything in check, making them capable of going on a significant run.
But, in order to do that they need to start games out faster, they cannot allow teams to jump down their throat like they have allowed to happen in their last three games. It seems simple, at the start of the game, your legs are fresh, you should be able to play your hardest. However, I think something is psychologically missing with jersey right now, that nothing clicks with them until they are facing adversity head on. I could be wrong, but from a fans perspective, on the outside, that is how it seems. They also have to get the goals when they are given the opportunity. Against Boston, they had hardly any really good chances, but the Bruins gave them some spots, here and there to get some goals, yet they could not capitalize. I understand that Kovalchuk can not do it all on his own, but this isn’t Atlanta, he has much more around him now and it is time for those individuals to showcase their strengths now.
Tonight would be no different, they need to start this game out by keeping the puck out of their own end and creating some odd man rushes, let Chicago’s goalie keep them in the game tonight. We have to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, I don’t care where it is from, there will be rebounds. Would I rather play another team tonight? Yes, in fact I would rather play any other team tonight (that includes Washington), but Chicago is who is on the schedule so we have to come to win tonight.
The Hawks played last night against the Wild, shutting them out 4-0, which snapped a three game skid. Antti Niemi will be in the net again tonight, Brodeur of course will be manning the pipes for Jersey.
As far as Chicago’s threats are concerned (and there are a lot of them), the Devils have to play their patient game defensively. What I mean by that, is to stay with Kane, Towes, Hossa, Sharp etc and push them to them towards the boards, forcing them to make passes or just dump the puck in. If they do start to break free and get prime scoring chances then we have to get physical with them to create turnovers. I know Niemi is better than Huet as of late, but if we create turnovers in the neutral zone and get some breaks against him enough times, I feel we will crack him eventually. Hopefully, because the Devils need this win to keep pace in the Atlantic for the 2 or 3 spot. LETS GO DEVILS! ( I got my fingers crossed).